Ask an Asian: Are the Majority of Young Japanese Americans Part White?

Every so often, we here at 8Asians get e-mails asking for advice. Here is one such e-mail received last week:

I found this quote on Andrew Sullivan’s blog: “a large majority of Japanese-Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s have one non-Japanese parent, usually of European origin.”

Any idea if this is true?

The simple answer is yes. But let’s examine the data, after the jump.

According to an abstract titled, “The Japanese American Family,” by Arthur Sakamoto. ChangHwan Kim, Isao Takei, “45.0% of marital J-A families involve intermarriage with a White. The percentage would be increased to 48.5% if foreign-born Whites (i.e., IWhites) were added to that figure.”

Here is the breakdown of Japanese families in the United States.

FB = Foreign born. NB = Native born. BR = Bi-racial. J-WHITE = single-race, native-born whites who claim some “Japanese ancestry”. IWHITE = Immigrant whites.

48.5% may seem low. But if you examine the numbers, you’ll see that it is a little misleading. According to same abstract, the average age of a Japanese American family with both couples who are Japanese American (NB) is 63.895% (see table below). In other words, the vast majority of younger people/families with people of Japanese ancestry contain only one person who is of Japanese descent.

Anecdotally, as a Japanese American, it is easy to see that the face of the Japanese American community and also the definition of what it means to be Japanese American is changing.

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Author: Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.